What We Ate Wednesday & Cookbook Review: Choosing Raw By Gena Hamshaw (Plus A Recipe!)

July 16th, 2014 - posted under: The Food » Food Styles

choosing raw book

I remember, very clearly, sitting in a cafe in New York City. February 2013. I was in town for Main Street Vegan Academy, fresh off a redeye with nearly zero sleep, hollow-eyed exhausted and so happy to be right there exactly where I was. Amped on adrenaline, espresso, and green juice, I fell into an easy rapport with my dining companion. We were playing catch-up – life, the universe, and everything – when Gena looked across the table at me and kind of smiled this secretive half smile, and confided: “So I sort of signed this book deal.”

I squealed of course (I blame the redeye) because Gena, and her blog Choosing Raw, are two of my favorite forces in the vegan community. We talked a bit about what she was hoping to do with the book, as we finished our brunch that day. And we talked about the project some more when we caught up with each other again a few months later, at Vida Vegan Con. But Gena waited a long time to announce it on her blog, and many many months went by, and I have to admit . . . I kind of forgot about it!

That is, until I got an email a few weeks ago, announcing the release.

choosing raw book cover

You guys. I’m not going to lie: this book is fucking AMAZING. I know, I know. She’s my friend and you think I have to say that. But seriously, this book is A – MAZ – ING.

It brings together everything I love about Gena and the work she does over at Choosing Raw. It’s smart and sensible and thorough and thoughtful and practical and did I mention smart? And it’s gorgeous, full of vibrant photography (thank you to the incomparable Hannah Kaminsky for that). And it’s more than just a cookbook. Gena is a certified clinical nutritionist, and operating on many years of personal experience in the vegan and raw communities. Which is why the first 95 pages of the book are devoted to words and words alone – advice, nutritional information, raw food FAQs, health myths and misconceptions (my favorite part, everything from protein to soy, oil to supplements, and so much more), and a complete 21-day meal plan. For reals, this book isn’t messing around. It WILL become my standard new-to-vegan/new-to-raw recommendation.

But okay, enough of my gushing. You want to see the food, right?? Well, last weekend Jeremy and I spent an entire day eating directly from these pages, and taking many pictures along the way. Here’s what that day looked like:

morning coffee

Oh hello! Good morning!

Jeremy and I enjoyed our lazy morning coffee in the back yard, flipping through the pages of the cookbook, deciding exactly what deliciousness we’d be [un]cooking up that day. Not a bad way to start the morning, I’d say.

For breakfast we decided on the Mocha Maca Chia Pudding, an incredible blend of energizing coffee, raw cacao, and tonifying maca. Mixing it up:

making mocha chia pudding

And served pretty, parfait-style:

mocha chia pudding with mintmocha maca chia pudding

Mocha Maca Chia Pudding layered with blueberries and garnished with cacao nibs + fresh mint.

It was, in a word, divine (but I’m sure you can tell that just by looking at it!)

This was one of those weekend days that drifted along. No plans except to putter about the house, which is exactly what we did. I was in my pajamas until well after noon. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon cleaning my kitchen from top to bottom – and I mean *really* cleaning. Like, polishing up the cabinet faces, on hands and knees at the baseboard lip, taking everything off the shelves, that kind of cleaning. It felt great but unfortunately, that sort of day doesn’t make for many pictures.

Jeremy ventured out for a haircut, and to pick up a few odd ingredients at the market. And when he returned, it was lunch time. Creamy Basil and Ginger Noodles.

creamy ginger basil sauce

I must admit, I was a bit hesitant to try this recipe. For one, I have a love-hate relationship with kelp noodles that often leans more towards the “hate” side of things . . . but then, I had multiple bags of them just sitting there, taking up prime real estate in my fridge. And two, my brain has trouble putting “basil” and “ginger” together in a sauce.

However, I trust Gena, and so this strange flavor profile definitely intrigued me. Thus, Creamy Basil and Ginger Noodles it was.

These were so good! I sun-dried the kelp noodles after soaking them in a solution of water, salt, and apple cider vinegar (lemon juice works as well) to try and loosen them up. If you’ve never eaten kelp noodles before, they have this strange sort of “popping” texture which can be a bit off-putting (on the other hand Waits loves them, but then again he’s uncannily attracted to foods which have almost no calories, oof, so that makes sense). But after laying them out to dry in the sun (half an hour or so), I was beyond thrilled with how they turned out. For the first time ever, they were wonderfully relaxed and delightfully non-”poppy”. And of course the sauce turned out to be delicious and Jeremy and I devoured the entire batch.

Oh also, I’m me so I added white beans because PROTEIN.

Right after lunch I whipped up the dressing that we were going to eat with dinner, and if you think I’ve been raving too much already, then I’m sorry but it’s about to get worse. Much worse.

creamy herb dressing

You guys. This dressing!

This dressing tastes like summer. Like tangy summer! Herby and savory and amazing with umami but also that lightness and freshness of flavorful herbs. We had it for dinner that night and I literally woke up craving it the next day. So do you know what I did? I ate salad for breakfast. And then I ate salad for lunch. And then I ate salad for dinner I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING THREE MEALS STRAIGHT.

This is my new favorite dressing, which is why I made a double batch of it again just today. And why I begged Gena to share the recipe with all of you! And you lucky ducks – she obliged:

Green Herb Dressing

Makes 1 1/4 Cups Dressing 

1 cup packed fresh parsley

1⁄4 cup fresh dill

1⁄2 cup packed fresh basil

1⁄4 cup tahini

1⁄2 teaspoon Herbamare (a very delicious and healthy seasoned salt and herb mix) or sea salt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 green onion, green part only, chopped

Blend all the ingredients, along with 1⁄2 cup of water, in a blender until smooth.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Dressing will keep for 5 days.

From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.

Make this dressing, k? You won’t regret it!

sunflower bud

Our tallest sunflower towers above me these days, and it’s just about finally to open up.

I spent the afternoon and evening back and forth between kitchen and yard, tending to whatever needed tending. It was such a lovely day, lazy but always in motion, working while also relaxing. A podcast to keep me company, and easy, steady housework.

Bromeliads only bloom once in their whole lives, and two of mine are blooming!

homegrown tomatoes
Homegrown tomatoes for our dinner salad.

Zucchini noodles! FYI, I got my spiralizer for like, thirty bucks on Amazon, and it’s one of my absolute favorite kitchen tools. A surprisingly affordable little treasure!

quinoa meat balls
Mmmm quinoa meatballs! These were flavorful and easy to make and also, they held together really well.

And then finally, it was dinnertime! All said and done, we had a butterleaf and tomato salad with the Green Herb Dressing, and Zucchini Pasta with Quinoa Meatless Balls, paired with our favorite Spanish Rioja.

quinoa meatballs choosing raw


But we weren’t done yet! For dessert I’d made the Raw Key Lime Pie.

choosing raw key lime pie

Jeremy said this was the best dessert – okay maybe the best thing – I’ve ever made. And since then it’s been approved by both wee Waits Rebhal, and Jeremy’s roommate.

This is good pie.


And thus concludes our day of eats, and this cookbook review. I do hope you’ve enjoyed both, and I hope you’ll check out Gena’s book, Choosing Raw. And if you’re not already doing so, for goodness sake go read her blog!


♥ ♥ ♥

Pictures Of Things + Le Love List

July 13th, 2014 - posted under: Furthermore » Inspiration

LA sidewalk graffiti

On a sidewalk in Los Angeles.

I’ve always promised to keep this blog authentic. To share the bad as well as the good, the sad as well as the happy, and everything in between.

So. This week.

This week was hard (hence no primary post). And let me count the ways: on Tuesday morning I dropped Waits off at school only to notice that my engine was smoking. Like, a LOT. My car needs major repairs. Also, this week I found out that my house, my little tiny cottage that I love with all my heart, has been sold. I don’t know what that will mean for my residency here, but I’m feeling pretty heartbroken about it. And also, this week I had to make a very difficult decision regarding my path in graduate school. The new path is better, but I had to let down someone who’s done a lot for me, and that hurt (it was also empowering, something I don’t think I’d have been strong enough to do even a year ago, and a testament to my personal growth . . . but still, of course, very hard). So yes, it was an emotional week, and all that on top of life’s ever-revolving parade of small stumbling blocks.

But, well, onward and upward. Amidst all that sadz, there were quite a few special moments this week as well. Like these:

standing in street

Out and about on the 4th of July. Ghost streets.

fireworks palm trees
Fireworks over palm trees; oh I ♥ southern California!

monarch butterfly chrysalis
This is a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis – they’re called “monarch” because of the golden beading along the top, which looks like a crown. Nature is so exquisite.

Sayward Elana Klean Slate
When bloggers brunch, haha. This is the lovely Elana, who joined me last weekend for a delicious meal at one of my favorite LA eateries, Flore in Silverlake.

Flore tempeh reuben
My meal at Flore: classic tempeh reuben, and a vegetable juice on the side. SO GOOD.

vegan waffle cone ice cream
Later that night with Whitney and Jason, for Jason’s birthday party at SunCafe Organic. And dessert? Organic gluten-free sugar-free waffle cones with raw ice cream and coconut cream whip, HOLY MOLY AMAZING, handmade and served tableside by the incomparable Jingslingers.

cosleeping with 4 year old
This is what co-sleeping with a 4 year old looks like. Ha! No but seriously. Every. Morning. (and I’m not complaining ♥)

kid in cage
We were at Jeremy’s work, and Waits wanted to get into this “cage”. “I’m a baby lion, mama!” he growled. “Rawr! Rawr!” . . . “Now you’re the mean zookeeper, you won’t let me out of the cage.” And then Waits decided that Jeremy was the daddy lion who was coming to rescue him from the cage, and we all staged a jail break, and then the whole game ended with the three of us chanting “Animal Liberation! Animal Liberation!” and it was maybe the MOST VEGAN moment of my entire life, and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. You’re totally allowed to roll your eyes – I would!

green parrot
This guy, beautiful Murgatroyd, is companion to Waits’s great-grandmother. If you call him “pretty bird”, he’ll proudly flash you a little tail feather.

vegan mojitos
Summer = mojitos (with mint right from the garden!)

at the Natural History Museum
Rowing his boat at The natural History Museum.

bumble bee sunflower
The bumble bees love our sunflowers. They just load up on sweet summer pollen. And they pack so much on, Jeremy says they look like they’re wearing sweat pants. Ha!

And now, since I started this post with a big ‘ol grumpy grumble, how about a quick little gratitude adjustment: Le Love List!

Picking my very first homegrown tomato of the year. It tasted like pure unadulterated summer! I ate it on toast. // Filming a video with Waits all about raising, and being, vegan kiddos! I can’t wait to share this – coming soon from Eco-Vegan Gal. // Therapy. I wish it for everyone. I believe it should be offered for free by the government, for reals. Just think of the jobs it would create! // Spending quality time with my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. You don’t [have to] divorce your family. ♥ // Raw food recipes for summer. // Planning a massive road trip/camping extravaganza with Jeremy and Waits. It’s going to be so fun! And of course, I plan to blog all about vegan camping. // Fresh herbs in everything. // Growing. Feeling myself grow. Knowing it. That’s just so good!

Alright guys, now it’s your turn! I hope you’ll leave your own little Love List in the comments below, and let us all know what’s making you smile these days.

I hope you all had a happy happy weekend!

Pictures Of Things

July 3rd, 2014 - posted under: Furthermore » Feedback

yellow flowers in box

I’m thinking of trying something new.

I have this weird compulsion with this blog, this self-imposed requirement that says everything I post has to be “valuable content”. Recipes, instructionals, that sort of stuff.

But when I read other blogs, do you know what I love?

Pretty pictures of everyday life. “Bits and Pieces”, “Life Lately” – those types of posts are what I love to look at in my rare and precious downtime. And so, here and now, I’m giving it a shot. It’s a big step for me! And since I cannot silence that little voice in the back of my mind hollering about creating value, I will leave you with a Love List and ask that you please leave me with yours. Because there’s nothing more valuable than shared gratitude. Yes?

Okay. Here we go! Oh also, if this becomes a regular thing on the blog (and please let me know if you’d like it to — or if not!), it’ll need a nifty name. I’m open to suggestions.

Basically, this is a big ‘ol experiment, can you tell? Onwards!

flowers from the garden

My very first bouquet of homegrown flowers.

making stock kitchen scraps
Homemade veggie broth with all my kitchen scraps.

Petit Vour makeup box
My July Petit Vour beauty box was chock full of amazing cruelty-free goodies. Gorgeous too, as always.

i fucking heart you necklace
This surprise gift from my sweetheart. And how, this man does know me.

bromeliad flower
Bromeliads bloom just once, only one strange spiky bloom in their whole entire life. And Jeremy’s is blooming, right now. ♥

tarot reading starts with deathbest tarot reading ever

A reading that begins with death . . . and ends as the BEST and most insightful tarot pull ever.

vaccination face
NOT a happy camper in the waiting room for his vaccination.

sprout with seed hat
Ultimate cuteness in my garden: still wearing its little seed hat.

tomato plant
My first tomato is juuuust about ready.

socal beach baby
This kid. And these days. So much.

And now, the best way to kick off the weekend, I’ll show you mine if you please show me yours . . . Le Love List!

Fireworks! Can’t help it, I love them. // My video interview with Eco-Vegan Gal all about raising vegan children, preventing ex-vegans, and all sorts of other good stuff. It was so much fun and Whitney is amazing – I hope you had a chance to check it out! // Growing starts from seed. A million little sprouts. I love my garden. // I’m watching Reality Bites right now, it is one of the formative films of my youth, and it is fan-tastic. // The ocean is warmer than it’s been in years. I don’t know what’s going on or why, but I’ll take it! // I wrote my very first grant proposal. Like a wee baby bird, my advisor pushed me out of the nest with one firm shove, and I was flying solo, flapping madly for a few crazy days. But I got myself centered, buckled down, and got it done. And . . . I think it actually turned out pretty dang good! Either way I was proud, but please cross your fingers for us to get the grant and fund our work this summer. // Giant salads. Always. // Partnering with Vegan Cuts to curate a Vegan Family Starter Kit! That was a really fun one. // Bad tv marathons that just don’t stop. // Waits’s bedroom is really coming together, I can’t wait to show you all the whole giant makeover! // Inspired vegans who never fail to inspire. // Summer. Summer. Summer is heeeeeeere!

Alright guys, now it’s your turn! I hope you’ll leave your own little Love List in the comments below, and let us all know what’s making you smile these days. And, if you have any thoughts on these picture posts, let me know. Either way I want to hear. I promise!

Happy weekend, and American readers, have a safe 4th of July!

♥ ♥ ♥

Cheap & Easy Compost Bin System

July 2nd, 2014 - posted under: The Farm » Flora

bin composting system.jpg

Confession time: despite my best intentions, it took me over 6 months to get my compost system up and running in this house. We were busy adjusting to our new life, I guess, and it just kept getting pushed aside.

That is, until my godfather upgraded his own composting system (he built a beautiful wood and wire bin system – maybe I’ll photograph it some time) and offered me his old bins.

Yes! I was in business.

I’ve been composting for a little over a year now, which means I’m churning out batches of black-gold-plant-power at pretty regular intervals. It’s gold, I tell you! Garden gold.

vegan compost

After my recent gardening posts (one and two), readers began asking about easy composting systems. And guys, it doesn’t get much easier (and cheaper!) than this. Bin composting.

The idea behind bin composting is simple. You move your compost through a series of containers, slowly over time, thereby mixing it and aerating it along the way. Compost needs to turn over in order to break down into dirt (as opposed to just rotting), and transferring a batch from one bin to another is a perfect way to achieve this effect.

Like so:

compost in bins steps.jpg

So it goes like this, when bin 1 (far left) is full and ready to transfer, remove all the finished product — now fully composted pure garden gold — from bin 4 (far right). I put my finished compost in a 5-gallon bucket so I can carry it around my yard, feeding my plants along the way.

With bin 4 now empty, you can transfer the contents of bin 3 (second from right) into bin 4. Use a shovel or pitchfork and make sure you get it good and tossed.

Now bin 3 will be empty, so move the contents of bin 2 (second from left) to bin 3, using the same “toss and aerate” technique. You’ll also want to add “browns” here. In the diagram above I said hay because that’s what I use, but any “browns” (dry matter – see my comprehensive composting article for more on that) will do. You need to add in “browns” along the way in order to keep the correct ratio of nitrogen (“greens”, ie kitchen scraps) to carbon (“browns”, ie hay, dried leaves, etc). Make sense?

With bin 2 empty you can now transfer the contents of bin 1 over to bin 2. Don’t forget to add in some “browns”!

And finally, that leaves an empty bin 1, ready to start collecting all of your kitchen scraps and yard waste, once again.

All said and done, a single complete transfer will go from this:

bin compost system

That’s dryer lint in bin 1 on the far left. Yup, it’s compostable!

To this:

compost using rubber bins
With a nice bed of hay all laid down in bin 1, ready for the next round of fresh compostables.

And that’s all there is to it. Setting yourself up with a bin composting system is incredibly cheap, especially if you can find the bins secondhand like I did (check garage sales and resale sites like Craigslist for some super scores). Oh, and make sure you poke some holes along the bottoms of the bins, so the wormies can get in. Worms and bugs are your compost pals!

If you’re concerned about composting in plastic (obviously I’m not, but I understand if you are), you can achieve the same effect with wood or metal. Like I said, my godfather built some wood and wire bins that are quite lovely, and some day I hope to do the same.

And that, my friends, is that.

So, do you compost at home? Do you use a bin composting system, or something else entirely? Let’s talk compost down below!

More Photos From My 2014 Yard & Garden Adventure

June 27th, 2014 - posted under: The Farm » Flora


Waits’s first sunflower of the year! So proud of my baby boy gardener.

A few weeks back, I introduced you all to my 2014 yard and garden. But that post got cut short . . . because it was so long! So many pictures and I didn’t even get to my front yard. So here it is! The rest of the tour, over around the front of the house. Here’s what’s been going on . . .

grow kale in wine boxes

All through the fall I grew hardy greens – kale, chard, and collards – in wine boxes on my front porch. Every morning I harvested leaves for our green smoothies, that perfect trio of kale, chard, and collards. They’re pretty much gone by now, but oh, they were good while they lasted!

handful of homegrown greens
♥ Every morning ♥

And as the season warmed up, I began adding other vegetables to my yard. I’ve got quite the collection of wine box squashes and melons:

container garden squash
Pumpkins, pumpkins, watermelon, and honeydew.

Last year I grew a few jalapeño plants, and they provided plenty of fruit for my preservation fun. So this year, I thought I’d do the same. I purchased a single pepper plant:

pepper growth
Growing, growing, grown!

Which was fun, buuuuut . . . one pepper plant just isn’t enough! One night, way too late, I started reading about pepper preservation: homemade chili flakes, homemade hot sauce, and on and on. And, well, it was all over.


A wine box pepper garden! I’m growing jalapeños, poblanos (to make anchos – for enchilada sauce!), tabasco chilis, and a single Hungarian purple pepper for my sweetheart. I can’t wait to harvest these babies!

And in other news, I’m growing herbs. LOTS of herbs:

herbs in pots on porch
A few of my herbs – oregano, marjoram, cilantro, and mint. I’m also growing parsley, savory, stevia, rosemary, thyme, and this:

lemongrass in pot

Homegrown lemongrass! I’ve had some trouble keeping this plant happy, but I’m really excited to finally use it in my cooking this summer.

I’m also growing some flowers out in the front, and they’re juuuust starting to bloom. I love a bud just before it opens – cinched up tight and full of potential, unable to hide the hint of color that’s just about to burst forth. I love the blooms, but the buds . . . the sweet promise carried in those buds . . . that might be my favorite part of all.

zinnia bud

Let’s see, what else? I’m growing a second round of tomatoes out front! They’re so cute when they’re small.

tomatoes in wooden boxes

And finally, the most exciting prospective project in my own yard and garden. These two:

trellis loofah plants

These may look unassuming, but they are anything but. They are, in fact, the pièce de résistance in my 2014 garden. And you’ll just have to wait to see if they turn out . . . just like I will.


So now it’s your turn!

What are you growing, and how’s it going? Please share, and if you can, link to your garden updates and photos. We’re all dying to see!! (well, at least I know I am)

Happy gardening everyone!